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Formed in 1916 as The Rhodesia Native Regiment, its troops were blooded with honour in the East African campaign. Disbanded in 1919, the regiment was re-formed in 1940 during World War II as The Rhodesian African Rifles, seeing action in Burma. In the 1950s, the regiment distinguished itself further during the Malayan Emergency. During the 1960s and 1970s, the regiment was at the forefront of hostilities in the bloody Rhodesian ‘bush war’. Ironically, it was after Zimbabwean independence in 1980, that the RAR’s finest hour came, when, fighting for their erstwhile enemy, Mugabe, the soldiers of the RAR defeated Nkomo’s invading ZIPRA armies at the battles of Entumbane in Bulawayo.

Masodja London launch address - Brigadier D. Heppenstall: 09/11/07

“Lord Salisbury, our President, General Lord Michael Walker, the son of our battalion 2ic in Burma in World War 2, honoured guests, members of the Association, ladies and gentlemen. Like the Battle of Waterloo, this has been a close run thing. Yesterday morning I received four copies of Masodja from the printers in Durban, South Africa, by special delivery, and the main consignment only arrived at Heathrow yesterday evening. The main reason for the four by special delivery was so that we could present one of them to Prince Philip when he signed our Regimental Drumskin at lunchtime yesterday. He was most intrigued when Tobias Mutangadura pointed out to him his photograph taken at the Malayan Independence Merdeka celebrations fifty years ago in 1957.

“Anyway to get back to the main topic, the reasons why we almost didn’t succeed in getting the books here for the launch were several. Firstly it was published and printed in South Africa on the one hand and the author and Regimental Association in the UK on the other. This of course prevented close liaison between the two sides although the use of email made things far easier than they used to be. Most of the text was completed by Alex Binda several years ago, although there were gaps in the records available, and more information was received right up to the last minute. Originally we had planned to have the Launch last April to coincide with our Regimental Day, Tanlwe Chaung Day. This was deemed too early, and it was put back to July, the month in which the Regiment was formed.

“In the meantime, however, in conjunction with Chris Cocks, Alex had written the History of the RLI, The Saints, which had a very impressive Launch last June. Chris Cocks, our publisher at 30 Degrees South, advised us that a July Launch would be too close to the Saints Launch and recommended that it be postponed to Remembrance Weekend  which we agreed and set the wheels in motion to hire this hall and invite our VIP guests. Apart from the distance between publishers and originators, other mitigating factors included the sheer volume of photographs of which about 75% have been included. These were still being annotated about ten days before the book went to print! Another major factor which nearly caused a postponement was the bad reaction to a new course of medicine prescribed to Kerrin Cocks. This resulted in her being rushed into intensive care followed by a two week break to recuperate. Kerrin is a vital cog in the 30 Degrees South machine, but was soon back on line to rush things through. Pinetown Printers in Durban did a great job in completing those books which we have here today, and in fact they were working 24 hours over the whole of last weekend. We owe a debt of gratitude to all involved in the publication, to Chris and Kerrin Cocks for their expertise, to Pinetown Printers and to Bill Welsh for acting as our Marshal Blucher and arriving with the books in the nick of time.

“Apart, of course, from Alex Binda, I owe a special thank you to John Hopkins, Iain Harper, Bridget Wells-West and all those who supplied photographs and reminiscences of their time in the Regiment. I would now like to deal with our four members whom we invited over from Zimbabwe. This has been possible due to the magnificent support given by the Royal Commonwealth Ex-Services League who paid all their expenses. Our four who came over are:

Captain Machakada Patrick Nelomwe: He attested in time to go to the Canal Zone, Egypt, with 1RAR in 1952, and has subsequently seen service in Malaya, the Nyasaland Emergency, the Congo border and the Rhodesian bush war. He rose from company clerk in A Company to ORQMS in the 1st Battalion in 1980. He was commissioned, subsequently in the Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA).

“Major Tobias Chenharu Mutangadura DMM: A member of the Rhodesian Army Education Corps who served almost all his time with 1RAR. By 1980 he was a WO1 and had been awarded the Defence Forces Medal for Meritorious Service (DMM). He was commissioned in the ZNA, and retired as major. He was curator of the Gweru Military Museum for several years.

“RSM Gibson Zanago Mugadza BCR: A very talented half back in my battalion football team in his younger days. In the Rhodesian bush war he was awarded the Bronze Cross of Rhodesia (BCR) for outstanding leadership and bravery in action. He retired from the Army after 1980 as RSM at the School of Infantry, Gwelo.

“RSM Obert Veremu DMM: Obert was in my platoon in Malaya where he was a junior NCO, leading scout and tracker. That was exactly 50 years ago. He rose steadily through the ranks, was a champion 110 mile marcher and was awarded his DMM in 1972. He was RSM 1RAR from 1977 to 1978 and 3RAR from its formation in 1978 until after independence when he retired and went farming.

“The four are ideally situated throughout the country. Patrick is in Bulawayo, Tobias in Gweru, Gibson in Harare and Obert in the Vumba. They will be able to tell all our old comrades that the Regiment is still very much alive!

“I must now emphasise that the main reason that they arrived here at all is thanks to Lt-Col Malcolm Clewer, the Chairman of our Association in Zimbabwe and also the Chairman of the Harare Branch of the Legion Zimbabwe. He did a magnificent job, and cleared all the hurdles put in his way. Our four have all told me repeatedly how much they owe to him for all he has done to make their visit possible.

“In conclusion I have a small presentation to make to our author, Alex Binda, and I am sure that because of his background he will treasure it more than I. It is a silver plate from the Portuguese Army, Zone Operational Tete (ZOT), presented to HQ Salisbury Area following one of the liaison/sports visits to Salisbury at which he was an interpreter. If I remember correctly I was the manager of the winning Rhodesian football team and a staff captain at HQ Southern Rhodesia District.”

Hardback, 480 pages 1,000 colour & b/w photos, sketches, maps. Accompanying 35-minute DVD Frontline. Published November 2007